Let’s face it - transport problems are a natural component of one’s work life. At the time of writing, we are staring down the barrel of a 24-hour tube strike starting at 18:30 BST today (Wednesday 5 August).
London Underground (LU) bosses have been meeting delegates from four unions who represent 20,000 workers. As of now, no deal has been reached. the unions and the LU have been trying to reach a deal over the introduction of the new night Tube service.
It's not only the Tube Strike that causes transport problems. Transport accidents (on roads, train tracks or at airports), weather (snow, strong winds or heavy rain), epidemics (swine flu, bird flu) are just a few that have caused major impacts to office employees.
Assuming you’re an office worker and you can rip yourself away from YouTube Vine compilations, let’s look at our top 10 things you need for working more effectively during these potentially stressful situations.
8. Car Share
If you absolutely must/have to/need to/should be in the office to be effective but only know how to use the Tube, or London transport, then starting at number ten try using liftshare.com (also known as carshare.com).
This site provides you with an extra resource to get in and out of London with full details of the times that people are willing to provide lifts in and out. In addition, it also contains a downloadable mobile application should you not have handy access to an internet terminal.
Car sharing is a great way to make new friends and find out just how much fun coming into London with someone else actually is.
7. Google Maps – Google Now – Apple's Siri
Our number nine recommendation for those not keen on car sharing and are close enough to cycle is to try using online maps such as Google Maps. These maps provide excellent alternative methods to getting from A to B during a tube strike.
However, one current downside to Google Maps is that it's very bad at guessing traffic conditions, a state which will only be exacerbated by the extra traffic chaos caused by a Tube strike.
If you’re a bit more tech savvy, you might like to try using a more intelligent application such as Google Now or Apple Siri. Google Now and competitor applications provide you with traffic conditions, weather and a variety of other potentially useful information on your chosen routes and will help you select the most optimum route to get back to your office without using the Tube.
But what about office employees who cannot bear to be embroiled in the delays and queues caused by the London Tube chaos and so elect to work from home? Although remote working has been a much touted boon to corporations, there are several issues involved, many of which are covered in the remote working survival guides at the end of this article.
A few issues with working from home include the extra costs involved – heating, lighting and extra internet connectivity (extra downloads/uploads) to name a few. Here are a few things that are worth investing in, to ensure you have maximum comfort for efficient home working at minimum cost.
6. Electric cycle
Cycling is admittedly dangerous in big cities (and especially London with its dearth of bike lanes) but it sure does beat the traffic. Zip past your car-sharing colleagues on an electric bike and enjoy how the motor assist turns the Primrose Hill climb into a breeze.
An emerging technology, these machines are rather dear. The Vivax electric assist can be retro-fitted into any bicycle with a sufficient diameter seat post, but its price tag is far from inconspicuous - $3,400 (£2,020) - meaning this ITProPortal writer will stick with his trusty non-smart bike for now. Also, many models are rather more obviously "electric" in their design, such as the chunky Swiss Stromer ST1 pictured.
5. Video conferencing
If you've ever had to deal with a misunderstood voicemail or email and text messages taken out of context, then you'll appreciate the importance of the visual cues provided by video conferencing. In addition to visual cues, video conferencing will enable you to explain, demonstrate and display how you can overcome challenges, especially challenges involving non-digital objects.
It is also an excellent medium for you and colleagues to demonstrate how well everyone has understood important components within a conversation. There is a multitude of free videoconferencing software available today which include Facetime on Apple and Skype on your PC. Your company may already have these features internally using software such as Microsoft Lync, or with cloud services such as Office 365 or Google Chat within the corporate Google Apps suite. Options now exist that provide a device-agnostic service for business, allowing employees to tune in to the office from whatever BYOD device they might choose to own.
Video conferencing "definitely makes it much easier for people to not have to come into the office, but at the same time be almost as available as if they were present," said Mark Lewis of Interoute to ITProPortal,
"I think it facilitates a much looser geography," he added.
4. Document exchange technology
If you're not working in the office and need to collaboratively work on financial and project documentation then a cloud service
which aids in document storage and sharing is essential.
One of the best aspects of today's smartphones is their ability to read emailed documents. However, the smartphone methodology isn't always feasible depending on the document size, the amount being sent, and the amount of editing and commenting required.
For this reason, cloud services such as Dropbox, or a corporate cloud service such as Google Docs, or Office 365 is essential during situations such as a tube strike.
As a free application, Dropbox is useful as it quickly enables you to share large and multiple documents to all your colleagues in the same department or project. Dropbox's downside for a cash strapped company is that there is a limitation to the amount of size that can be saved for free.
Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365 have an additional benefit to Dropbox in that multiple users can simultaneously edit a document which is a fantastic benefit when colleagues are separated due to tube strikes or other unexpected situations that prevent the entire team from being in the office.
3. Reliable Internet access
We believe consistent reliable Internet access is essential. If your work involves connectivity to the Internet for research, email and a mix of other web communications, then you can imagine the distress you would face due to an internet outage. A few solutions include:
- temporarily sign up with a wireless cloud provider (should you have one in your area); or,
- use an internet dongle. Just in case you haven't heard of one - an internet dongle is a USB stick that provides your mobile device with internet connectivity. Connectivity prices and features have evolved since our last USB Internet dongle news announcement but the point is that an internet dongle is an excellent fail safe should you be in a home which does not have internet or their internet device/provider has gone down; or,
- cellular data-permitting, enable internet tethering on your mobile and access the net on your laptop this way
2. A fully charged smartphone
It sounds crazy and simple but wait until you get to our number one recommendation! At number two, a fully charged smart phone might seem quite trivial, but how many times have we had to deal with urgent issues only to find our phone has run out of power? Not a problem in the office, but a major headache when working on the move or from an internet café.
For heavy mobile phone users, consider investing in a portable USB charger. If you've never used one of these you can check out how they work from a few of our reviews on the Sony wind up usb charger and the Duracell portable usb charger.
1. A to-do list
Simple but....every remote worker knows the multitude of distractions and challenges of working from home. A to-do list is an essential component to keeping you effective. Paper ones created the night before are many people's favourite method, but if you enjoy the technological challenges then an effective to-do list can be created in Microsoft Outlook.
The to-do list is our number one recommendation because it will help you to remain focused, involved and interested.
If you've enjoyed this article, do check out our other survival guides.